Glenna Godsey in the starring role of Miss Mona.
On January 9, 2014, I shivered up the outdoor stairs in freezing rain to reach the JCC’s Linker Auditorium. After my interview with CenterStage’s artistic director Mr. John Leffert, I knew there was no way that even a barrage of hail would keep me from seeing the opening night of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
Mr. Leffert prefaced the show’s opening by making the audience aware that “we’ve got a star in our house.” He was referring to Glenna Godsey, who instilled the lead role of Miss Mona with humanity, strength, and delightful feistiness. Yet, even the minor characters all held presence on the stage and helped add color and empathy to the portrait painted of the town of Gilbert. That stage was star-studded, and I’m not talking about the Texas flags.
The second Tamika McDonald opens her mouth as Jewel in her show-stopper “Twenty-Four Hours of Lovin’,” you feel as if you are watching a pre-famous Jennifer Hudson own the stage.
Rusty Henle and Glenna Godsey, the dynamic duo.
Rusty Henle as Sherriff Ed Earl Dodd seemed like he has never had more fun in a role that was absolutely made for him. Every time he would shoot his gun or utter another ornery curse word, the audience could not stop laughing. It was funnier every time. Never have I heard a string of curse words punctuated with such hilarity. His best line alludes to feeling like a country dog in the city. I won’t spoil it, but my family and I were still cracking up hours later.
If anything, you simply must see John E. Trueblood, who could not have been a more perfect governor. He impishly performed the political “sidestep," and relished every comedic moment of it.
Jason Cooper is a scene-stealer as Melvin P. Thorpe, the “watchdog” out to get the whorehouse expunged from Texas simply for pursuit of his own personal laurels. The staging of “Texas Has a Whorehouse in It” is satiric gold.
Also, if Lauren LeBlanc does not break your heart in “Hard Candy Christmas,” I question whether you have feelings. I still remember how terrific she was as Paulette in CenterStage's production of Legally Blonde. She has the Midas touch. Erin Jump performed with great vulnerability that rendered her a convincing, relatable Shy. And Jennifer Poliskie as the character Doatsey Mae will have you reflecting on all the things you wished you could have accomplished, but never could. It was a terrific costuming choice for her to have vivid blue eye shadow, for she also plays one of Miss Mona’s girls. When Miss Poliskie transforms into the separate role of Doatsey Mae, cafe owner, the brassy blue make up further shows that these call girls are not so different from anyone who has not realized their ultimate dreams in life.
It is so easy to get caught up in the media fire-and-brimstone storms these days. With all the various technological forms of social communication, people can point fingers and revile others without even half a thought. But what I love about The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is that it “ain’t as simple as [it] seems.” This musical is not emotionally engulfing like its predecessor Les Miserables. It won’t bring about world peace. But it’s more than just boisterous entertainment. Through Mr. Leffert’s creative vision, his production causes you to re-evaluate your perspective in an intuitive way. You will laugh so hard your sides hurt, but you will also truly grow to care for all the women in the Chicken Ranch.
There are some surprise audience interactions that will find you even more invested in these characters. Plus, just wait until the delightfully clever presentation of the cheerleaders. Definitely go see this one.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is playing through Sunday, January 19th. Dial 502-459-0660 or visit CenterStageJCC.org to purchase tickets for a memorable production.
Interested in future CenterStage extravaganzas? You should keep an eye out for Wit (February 13 – 23), The Color Purple (with an all African-American cast and director) (March 20 – April 6) and the timeless classic, The Sound of Music (May 8 – 18).
Top Photo: Courtesy of CenterStage at the JCC's facebook page; All Other Photos: courtesy of Ben Goldenberg